Name: Jerry Laphroaig

Age: 29

Occupation: Teacher

Why did you decide to try psychedelics?

I started taking mushrooms, LSD, and MDMA when I was a teenager, mostly as party drugs, and later for more therapeutic purposes.

I’d always heard that Ayahuasca was particularly good as a form of therapy, so when a friend offered to take me to a ceremony, I accepted.

How did you learn about psychedelics?

People sold them at my high school, which is how I first learned about them.

I studied neuroscience in college with a focus on how drugs affect the brain, and I found psychedelics particularly fascinating. That’s when I really became interested in trying them as a form of therapy.

Which psychedelics did you use?

This experience involves Ayahuasca. I’ve also taken psilocybin mushrooms, LSD, and MDMA.

Who guided you through your experience?

A shaman from Peru.

How did you source the drug?

The shaman and his staff provided the Ayahuasca.

How did you prepare for the experience?

I had a phone call with one of the people organizing the Ayahuasca retreat. She suggested avoiding caffeine, drugs, and alcohol for the week leading up to the Ayahuasca ceremony.

She also asked me to think about an intention as I prepared myself for the experience.

I didn’t know what to expect, so my intention was to take the Ayahuasca with an open mind and commit to exploring whatever came up during the experience.

The staff member also asked me if I had any concerns or fears. I was a little nervous—I’d heard that Ayahuasca is more intense than other psychedelics, which turned out to be true for me—but I didn’t have any real worries.

How would you describe your experience?

The ceremony started in the morning. There were about 30 of us in a large house. We’d all brought blankets and pillows that we arranged on the floor. We were next to one another, with enough space that we were all comfortable and could move around.

Before we drank the Ayahuasca, the shaman talked about its history, his training (he came from multiple generations of Ayahuascaderos), and his cultural perspective on Ayahuasca. He said that the plants used to make the brew contained a spirit, Mother Ayahuasca, and that we were drinking the brew to communicate with her.

He also said that Mother Ayahuasca is all-knowing and would give each of us exactly what we needed. While the experience may not be pleasant, it would be the right experience for each of us and the best thing we could do was to trust in the process.

At this point, his assistants began bringing out the brew. The shaman told us to continue drinking until we felt the effects. He said we would know with certainty when the effects kicked in; if we were unsure, we should wait for about 15 minutes, then ask for another cup.

I drank four cups of Ayahuasca over the course of about 90 minutes. Once I’d drunk the fourth cup, I began to feel something. I lay back and closed my eyes.

After a few minutes, I felt like I’d left my body and was in another plane of existence.

I met futuristic elves that were running enormous machinery, and somehow I understood that the machinery was maintaining our reality (i.e. the one that you and I are in right now, as you read this). Yes, I’m aware of how crazy that sounds. I also later learned that mechanical elves are a common hallucination people have while on DMT or Ayahuasca.

Then I moved to yet another plane of existence, and I met Mother Ayahuasca. It’s hard to describe her, or how we interacted. I didn’t experience any of this through my senses—that is, I didn’t see her or talk to her. Our communication was more direct than that. I don’t really have the words to describe it.

Mother Ayahuasca took me through my past, showing me challenges I’d experienced as a child. My mother sexually abused me throughout most of my childhood and my father was an alcoholic and drug addict. He also tried to kill himself when I was young, and starting at around age eight, I frequently had to stop him from harming himself. I have a lot of emotional baggage from all that, and at the time, I was going through increasingly intense spirals of depression and anxiety.

Mother Ayahuasca told me that I can become resilient enough to feel my pain instead of avoiding it, and that if I have the courage to face it, the cycle of abuse and addiction that’s been running through my family for generations will end with me.

Next she showed me my future, all the way through to old age; regrettably, I don’t really remember the details from this part of my experience.

Once she showed me my old age, I asked her what happens in death. She laughed, then everything fell away and I was left in complete darkness. It was as if I was in black, empty space.

I sat in the darkness for a while. Eventually, two glowing yellow spots popped up, far off in the blackness. They were next to one another, perfectly still. I stared at them for several minutes.

Suddenly, they began swaying left and right, moving toward me. As they got closer, I realized that they were yellow eyes, and that they belonged to an enormous black snake, perhaps 30 feet tall, gliding toward me.

I was struck with terror and was certain I was going to die. I froze for a second, but as the snake got closer, something shifted in my brain. I decided that if I was going to die, I would die fighting. I stood up and ran forward to attack it, and just as it came upon me, poised to bite, it disappeared, and I was back with Mother Ayahuasca.

She was pleased with me and told me, “If you face life’s hardships with that courage, you’ll spread good in the world, and you’ll die at peace.”

After that, the Ayahuasca wore off almost immediately. Within about 60 seconds, I was fully sober and back in my reality, lying on the floor in a pile of blankets, surrounded by strangers.

What did you do for integration afterward?

After the trip, the shaman gathered us in a large circle and asked each of us to share something we took from the experience.

In the days that followed, I spent a lot of time reflecting on my life, my past, and who I wanted to be going forward.

How long did the effects last?

The Ayahuasca ceremony lasted about 10 hours. The trip’s effects on my psychology and worldview seem to be permanent.

How is your life different after going through psychedelic therapy?

I’ve had depression and anxiety for as long as I can remember. Ayahuasca didn’t make them go away. I’m still depressed and anxious almost all the time. I suspect I always will be.

Now, however, my negative mental state doesn’t hold me back the way it used to. Ayahuasca taught me to face the challenges in my life instead of running from them. I can’t get rid of my misery, but I can become resilient enough to feel it, carry it, and live well anyway.

Ayahuasca also allowed me to find purpose in my pain. I grew up in a household of severe abuse and addiction. So did my parents, and their parents before that. That darkness ends with me; I will not pass it forward.

All in all, Ayahuasca has made me a better person. I’m much more in touch with my emotions; I feel them instead of burying them. I find joy in little things in a way that I didn’t used to, and I’m far more psychologically stable. I also have a greater sense of meaning in my life. I would say Ayahuasca is one of the most important things I’ve ever done.

If you could go back, what would you have done differently? Or what will you do differently next time?

Not a thing.